DON’T REALLY fancy an M5? Or, more likely, can’t afford one, can’t stomach the waiting list or need the versatility of an estate? Then give one of these a go
Well, maybe the 362bhp 550i at least, which has just replaced the (333bhp) 545i in BMW’s range and is less than 40bhp shy of the M-Sport car (before you press the Power button).
Advantages? It’s quite fast enough, the 4.8-litre V8 doesn’t sound like a diesel at idle, and you can have a normal six-speed manual or proper automatic gearbox (£1450), rather than the best-of-neither-world automated manual of the M-car. And, at £43,550 in SE trim (£45,750 in natty M-Sport form, which adds aluminium and Alcantara to the inside, a bodykit and ride-stuffing 18-inch alloys to the outside), it’s usefully cheaper. Plus, for an extra £2025, you can get an estate.
Disadvantages? Well, let’s not kid ourselves, this does not deliver the astonishment, involvement or cross-country rapidity of the M5. But it’s still good fun: reasonably agile and nimble, with responsive steering and high grip levels.
It’s also extremely refined: very quiet and with a remarkably comfortable cabin. The engine’s a corker, too, with decent pull even from low revs and a broad powerband. It is also hushed when cruising, and pleasingly growly on full throttle.
Much the same can be said about the cheaper 540i, which replaces the 535i. It’s just as entertaining and refined, only a bit slower, obviously, and oddly it’s only available as a saloon. The six-speed manual and auto ’box options remain.
A 540i will cost you £36,985 in SE trim; M-Sport spec adds £2625 and the same goodies as it does in the 550i.